As luck would have it, it turns out that the Martinborough Hotel has really good mid-week pizza. In my experience though, pretty much anything will taste great when it’s 10pm and your stomach has been rumbling for an hour or two.
As I cruised into town, the lights of the hotel were a welcome beacon. On any given weekend, I have no doubt BMW’s 435i coupé would have turned plenty of heads. Martinborough is the kind of place in which new BMWs are noticed. But on this occasion, there was barely a soul to be seen. Which is a shame really, as the 4‑Series is a really good-looking car.
Don’t be surprised if you’re confused at this point. 4‑Series? Yes, it’s new, but only in the sense that in the past this particular model would have been known as the 3‑Series coupé. The change is part of BMW’s plan to further segment its range of models – a 2‑Series coupé (to replace the old 1‑Series) is also in the works.
The look of the new coupé closely resembles that of the 3‑Series sedan – a handsome car in its own right – by making it both lower and sleeker. It’s quite striking (in a smart, German car kind of way), sporting flared kidney grille ‘nostrils’, short front overhangs and a tapered rear end. I really like it.
There are two models on offer. The test car was the all-singing, all-dancing 435i, or – in other words – the one to have, with its straight-six motor and twin-scroll turbo. It’s good for 5.1 seconds in the 0–100km/h dash thanks to a solid 225kW and a hefty 400Nm of torque. The 428i is not far behind. It drops a couple of cylinders, but thanks to the marvels of modern turbocharging, is less than a second behind in the race to the legal limit.
Having enthused positively in the past as to the brilliance of the 3‑Series, I was pretty keen to sample the coupé, and I wasn’t disappointed. All BMWs have a familiar feel or ‘driveability’ and the 435i is no exception. Although more muted than I would like, the engine note is crisp and businesslike under acceleration. The eight-speed gearbox is first rate, ensuring the engine is on boost virtually without exception, and when you really want to work the engine, the steering wheel-mounted paddles are accessible and responsive. Meanwhile, the coupé feels surefooted, despite the many off-camber corners of the Rimutaka’s infamous hill road. The lower ride height ensures it tackles corners with virtually no body roll, and while the steering lacks a degree of feel, it’s still involving. In other words, the BMW feels bulletproof.
The interior is kitted out in first-rate materials as you might expect, and can easily accommodate four full-sized adults. New for the model is an upgraded interface (iDrive), which works pretty well, and the Harmon Kardon stereo is well worth the extra investment. Frustratingly, even passengers can’t pair a phone to the car while on the move. Safety first for sure, but this belies common sense, although it’s a pretty small gripe in the scheme of things.
Is it fun? Compared to Jaguar’s in-your-face F‑Type (see FishHead, January 2014), the 435i feels comparatively conservative. But therein lies its appeal, not to mention the fact that it is more practical. The BMW will do everything to a very high standard indeed, and I can’t imagine a situation or circumstance in which it wouldn’t feel well suited – it’s the ideal car to complement the executive lifestyle. Which it would have to be, because inexpensive it is not.
The 435i, fitted with M‑Sport kit, is $126,500, while the entry-level 328i is a smidgen under $100k at $98,000. That makes the 435i close to $20k more than its sedan sibling, which is quite a premium by anyone’s measure, even given the impressive standard kit. But then the lower ride height means road-holding is really quite impressive… and did I mention just how good it looks?[warning]
Model reviewed: BMW 435i
Price: from $98k (model reviewed $126,500k plus $2,900 options)
Fuel economy: 7.4 litres/100km (manufacturer’s figures)
0–100km/h: 5.25 seconds
Overall: A very stylish coupé indeed that ticks all the boxes but won’t unnecessarily raise eyebrows in car-conservative Wellington[/warning]